SD Broadband grant will help connect homes & businesses between Harrisburg & Tea

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Governor Kristi Noem says an estimated 88,000 South Dakotans do not have access to high speed broadband internet.  Last month state lawmakers approved her rural broadband initiative, providing $100 million in public funds to help connect more rural South Dakotans.

But where some of these un-connected homes are located may surprise you.

“We had no idea that it was going to be an issue,” Sarah Manthey said.

The Manthey family built their dream home on an acreage that’s in clear view of both the Harrisburg and south Sioux Falls water towers.

“We’re just about two miles south of the southern edge of Sioux Falls and just about three miles from Harrisburg,” Manthey said. “We joke that we live on an unserviceable internet island here where we are.”

When they were ready to move in, they found out that DSL was their only option.

“We put things in our home that were intended to be able to be used with high speed internet. They just don’t function well with DSL like they could,” Manthey said.

A problem that became even more apparent during the pandemic.

“If we’re all at home in the evening trying to be online or streaming or watching videos or doing Zoom conference calls it just doesn’t work,” Manthey said.

“What we’re seeing with some of those at-home applications like remote learning, remote work, telemedicine, you really need a strong, reliable connection,” Midco Director of Government Relations Andrew Curley said.

Midco was just awarded more than $500,000 from the state’s Connect SD Broadband program to help bring fiber internet service to roughly 200 homes and businesses in rural areas surrounding Tea and Harrisburg.

“When you get just outside of city limits, whether its population density, geography, whatever the factors are, can really make it cost prohibitive to expand broadband into those areas,” Curley said. “That’s where a public-private partnership where we’re investing private dollars into the project as well as leveraging public dollars, can really make a difference to get areas like this connected.”

A connection that will bring a welcome technological boost to the Manthey family and their neighbors.

“It will be exciting when it does happen,” Manthey said.

The fiber installation will begin in Lincoln County this spring. Homeowners and businesses in the area should be connected by the end of the year.

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